The best April Fool’s campaigns and how to use humour in marketing

For a few hours every year, businesses large and small are able to play tricks on their loyal customers as part of April Fool’s. Now another staple day in the seasonal marketing calendar, the likes of Coca Cola and Pizza Hut took the opportunity to offer a light-hearted, well timed message of humour and wit.

Our April Fool’s favourites this year

Campaign Live published a fantastic round up of some of the biggest brands’ April Fool’s campaigns, so we thought we’d pick some of our favourites.

Coca Cola Helium

A long-standing choice on the top of any marketer’s watch list, Coca Cola know how to use bold campaigns to connect with their audience. From their 2013 Half Can packaging, which encouraged customers to take ‘sharing the happiness’ to the next level, to their ‘Small World Machines’, designed to help commonalities transcend often tense international borders, over the years Coca Cola have successfully pioneered the way in eye catching campaigns.

This April Fool’s Coca Cola announced it would be launching Coke Helium, which according to Campaign Live was designed to ‘to give customers that chipmunk-esque timbre to their speaking voice’, with marketing manager Kate Miller saying ‘she hoped sales of the new drink variant would “balloon”.’ The Drum reported the press release in full, which dropped the subtle hint all might not be as it seemed – ‘created with sharing fun moments in mind, Coca-Cola Helium is the perfect addition to parties and gatherings, or even for a cheeky prank people want to play on mates this April Fool’s Day!’

Pizza Hut Spa

Another April Fool’s campaign that made it onto The Drum’s list was Pizza Hut’s announcement that it was launching a Spa Retreat for ‘the most passionate pizza lovers’.  With a line-up of pizza inspired treatments on offer, including therapeutic dough rolling classes and a choice of cooling Hawaiian pineapple or warming pepperoni face masks, Pizza Hut’s promise to ‘offer a spa retreat reminiscent of your favourite indulgence’ seemed too good to be true.

The campaign’s Facebook video showing a secluded mountain location, dotted with chalet pizza huts, has racked up an impressive 200 000 views since Saturday, and shown that light-hearted humour can spread a smile and produce effective engagement across social media.

Should marketers use humour?

Though notoriously difficult to get right, when done successfully humour can add personality to a campaign and prove a useful way to create a human-connection between customer and brand. In both Coca Cola and Pizza Hut’s April Fool’s releases, it didn’t take long for customers to catch on to the fact that these might be campaigns done in good humour. Pitching the right level of ambiguity is important when including humour in a campaign – too hidden, and you risk the joke being missed or misinterpreted, too obvious and the sharing value will be lost. April Fool’s provided the ideal opportunity for brands to play a well-meaning joke on their valued customers, safe in the knowledge that it would be taken as intended.

To make sure you get it right when the time of year is less obvious, here are two top tips you can use to make sure your marketing is a laugh a minute.

Satire can be effective

Although it’s fair to say that not all audiences are receptive to satire, it can be effective when judged carefully and well timed. This is exactly what a number of airlines have done in recent weeks in response to the UK and US ban on laptops on flights from specific countries. Though highly controversial and political in nature, the topic was latched on to by Emirates Airline, Royal Jordanian and many more companies affected by the ban.

Al Jazeera reported a great round up of the responses, with Emirates posting an online video entitled ‘let us entertain you’ as a chance to advertise their selection of inflight films on offer. Royal Jordanian released a list of ’12 things to do on a 12-hour flight with no laptop or tablet’, with some of their suggestions including ‘appreciate the miracle of flight’, ‘reclaim territory on armrest’ and ‘pretend tray table is a keyboard.’

Well judged, playful and in keeping with the mood across social media, the airlines’ use of satire is a good level against which to judge your own foray into the world of irony.

Spot an opportunity

Sometimes using humour in a campaign can seem a little forced, and as such many of the best humorous marketing moments are those which happen spontaneously.

Econsultancy wrote a blog on how to tread the humour-marketing line back in 2015, and their Paddy Power example still demonstrates the perfect spontaneous moment. Receiving a text from a man named Steve, who mistakenly texted Paddy Power in the belief that it was a woman he had met the night before, Paddy Power decided to play along and live tweet the whole conversation. Taking the necessary privacy precautions by blocking out Steve’s number, and then asking the Twittersphere for suggestions on what to reply, the antics were well received by Paddy Power’s audience and also by Steve, once he found out he’d been pranked.

Mischievous, harmless and yet carried out sensibly, Paddy Power connected with its audience at the right level and reaped the rewards.

With such successful examples to use as inspiration, integrating humour into your marketing campaign shouldn’t be as scary as it might first seem. It may not be April Fool’s for another year, but there’s no time like the present to encourage engagement and personalised brand relationships by lightening the mood.

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